Reviews & Essays
A Look at Grief and Mourning
The Boston Globe
Regina Granne is an artist of our times. You couldn’t ask for a more mixed blessing, as she takes as her subject the grief and horror we inflict upon one another. It’s not a new theme for her, but in her show at Genovese/Sullivan Gallery, the New York artist plumbs it with renewed compassion and bracing form.

Content aside, these paintings have rigor and originality just for the process Granne goes through to create them. She tears black and white photos from newspapers and copies them in paint, right down to their tattered edges. She depicts them on a tabletop and renders them so that even as we look straight in front of us at the painting, we feel as if we’re looking down at it.

The odd perspective imbues the viewer with a sense of distance, but also with power and responsibility. The style of painting – light oil paint applied in washes – looks almost like a fresco, which gives the images a stony weight despite their pallor.

The angels of the “Lamenting Angels” series are cribbed from Giotto. Like the newspaper photos, they appear to have been ripped from a page. In one of these paintings, Granne arranges worldwide photos of grief and mourning in an interlocking S with the angels. The winged messengers float in a blue sky, looking like shreds of heaven and seeming to tend to the mourners, portrayed in shades of gray. Granne alleviates the stark, almost clinical picture of grief without watering down, and in fact without even sentimentalizing the experience.

Granne painted “Lamenting Angels” before the terrorist attack on her city. But after Sept. 11, Granne, who had also made paintings of newspaper photos set in an altar-like assemblage with sticks and stones, wandered the streets, struck by the shrines set up on sidewalks and walls for the missing and the dead. She saw an eerie confluence with her own work. The street shrines inspired the “After the Fall” series.

In “After the Fall (Red Table,” we look down upon a red square, vivid with velvety paint, set on one corner like a diamond against a jet-black ground. On the table lie stones, referring to violence or grief. A wilting rose speaks of life vanishing. A picture of an American flag shows a heart at its center, and within the heart the twin towers still stand. At the bottom, Granne paints a drawing of a helicopter and other planes, hinting at war. Finally, Giotto’s angels arc over the top of the shrine, offering, if not hope, solace.

In another series, Granne lyrically paints cut, wilting flowers, a vision of loss. In all these works, the artist has created a vessel for grief over the atrocities of violence and war. The vessel doesn’t ease the pain of mourning, but in giving it shape, Granne helps viewers to honor their own sorrow.

- Cate McQuaid